OK, not to be sappy here or deluded as to its purely philanthropic purpose but I have to admit that this weekend’s Washington Post article about Whole Foods’ gutsy new stores in Detroit and Chicago brought a tear to my eye. Not being overly sentimental, I wondered now where did that come from? Well, more than anything, I think I was impressed by their risk brilliance addressing 2 needs: 1)they recognize that to expand the number of stores, they need to broaden their demographic reach and 2)they’re inspired to use their knowhow and high quality, healthful product to make bold moves that have the power to really make a difference.
So, in an area of weed-filled concrete abandonment in Chicago, they’re embarking on the second experiment, post-Detroit. The Detroit store which many people scoffed as being crazy-risky has already beat it’s 10-year projection in one year. The Chicago neighborhood presents an even tougher challenge. The brilliant co-location of a pre-existing cooking school, community garden and the bones of gracious, yet largely now-abandoned housing, may just be the magic mix that will make this gambit a success. Pricing considerations for the brand known as “whole paycheck” are significant but it’s also a matter of education. In this abandoned property amidst what’s come to be identified as a “food desert” (appallingly ubiquitous in inner city neighborhoods), Whole Foods –in an even bigger way than Target (so often the revitalizing anchor big box)–may be at the vanguard of a new approach to combining neighborhood rescue on the foundation of nutrition, from farm, to retail to cooking school, all within shouting distance. It’s an inspiring read….